Amit Shah in Mysuru to win back Lingayats

Union Home Minister Amit Shah is in Mysuru today to participate in the Suttur Jatra Mahotsav, a six-day annual celebration with cultural and folk events.

He will later take stock of the BJP’s election preparedness at a strategy meeting with leaders from the four seats of Mysuru-Kodagu, Chamarajanagar, Mandya and Hassan.

The Suttur fair, organised by the local Suttur mutt, is revered by Veerashaiva-Lingayats, the State’s largest community and draws more than two million people.

Shah’s visit to the famous religious centre of Veerashaiva-Lingayats comes at a time the community leaders have not been happy with the frequent statements from the state government. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has often expressed his inclination to accept the caste census report, despite resistance from Lingayats and Vokkaligas, insisting that there is no point in rejecting it before placing it in the public domain and understanding the contents.

Shah’s interaction with the Suttur seer and addressing the gathering is aimed at influencing and winning back the Lingayat voters, a big chunk of whom voted for the Congress in the May assembly polls helping the grand old party form the government. The community at its convention at Davanagere in December, passed a resolution urging Siddaramaiah to junk the caste census report, and order a fresh one in an apolitical gathering that included ministers, and both Congress and BJP MLAs.

Karnataka has 28 Lok Sabha seats, of which the BJP won 25 on its own in the 2019 election, and the Mandya seat by backing the independent candidate, Sumalatha Ambareesh. The BJP has a strong presence in and around Mysuru, and is currently represented by Pratap Simha, in his second term. The party is trying to win back the dominant communities as well as the OBCs after the humiliating drubbing in the assembly polls.

The saffron party has already tied up with JDS, the regional party large sections of Vokkaligas identified themselves with. Mysuru and surrounding districts have large numbers of Vokkaligas.

Karnataka’s caste survey data, though ready, has not been made public or implemented by successive governments, fearing a backlash from communities whose numbers may have gone down. The Congress has been under pressure from OBC leaders to make the report public after the Bihar government released its survey of castes, according to which other backward classes (OBCs) and extremely backward classes (EBCs) make up more than 63% of the state population.

Siddaramaiah, a member of a backward community himself, sees the report as an opportunity to further his image as a champion of OBC groups and get OBC voters to back the Congress in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

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